While the proclamation is a start in taking a stand against racism, we do not believe it resolves the issue. To resolve racism, we must identify where the problem is most transparent and intervene in that area. The proclamation to condemn racism was initiated by the Clovis City Council in response to the recent hate crime against Chanel Wapner, who runs the only black-owned business in Old Town Clovis. Her shop Just my Essentials was vandalized with racial slurs graffitied across the walls and an X through BLM on the floor which stands for Black Lives Matter.
Shiela Yingwangkay and Nancy Cortez
Reaction to Black Lives Matter Movement
With the BLM mark, we can see that whoever did this was reacting to the recent national Black Lives Movement that broke out in response to the wrongful death of George Floyd earlier this year. This blatant act is the first to gain city officials’ attention and to take action in eliminating racism in Clovis and within Fresno County. Given the recent national protests across America and its message against hate crimes, it’s no wonder city officials responded. However, this does not resolve racism.
We decided to look at newspaper coverage of racism within Fresno County to determine where acts of racism are most transparent in media but not escalated to be considered a hate crime. Clovis Unified School District has been mentioned numerous times with allegations of racism towards minority students.
Racism Allegations Within Clovis Unified
In February 2018, CUSD came under attack when a student group Snapchat was leaked revealing racist conversations between students making jokes about Black slavery. During the same month, a biracial Hispanic-Laotian high school student was verbally attacked by her teacher who told her to go back to her country for not standing during the pledge of allegiance. Furthermore, parents began addressing the concern of their children’s experience of racism at school.
Danell teNyenhuis Black went as far as to reveal her nieces’ and nephews’ names to publish an opinion of their experiences in being targeted for being biracial. She mentions that her nephew was nicknamed Token by his cross country team and no one from the school addressed that it was a racist remark. Her niece had classmates throwing pencils and paper in her hair and was told “that black people had a certain smell.”
ACLU Complaint Against District
Most recently, the American Civil Liberty Union filed a complaint against CUSD regarding a student’s racial trauma that exacerbated his mental illness from multiple racist incidents for several years and “requests policy changes to make Clovis Unified teachers culturally competent. Nevertheless, the CUSD spokesperson continually assures the press that these acts don’t reflect their efforts and that their system is one that promotes respect for students’ race and culture. Racism amongst and against youth minorities within CUSD is most prevalent in Fresno County.
To eradicate racism and find justice for those affected within the community, we must start with the school districts. Racism is most transparent amongst these youth. School districts must implement policies to address cultural competency amongst the faculty, staff, and student body. The school districts must also educate them on diversity in school starting at junior high and continuing into high school. Further, Fresno County must make more of an effort to celebrate diversity months such as Black History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and Hispanic Heritage Month.
Only by implementing intervention amongst these youth will we resolve the issue of racism in the county.
About the Authors
Sheila Yingwangkay and Nancy Cortez are graduate students at the University of Southern California. Yingwangkay works as a graduate research assistant at California State University, Fresno. Cortez is a case manager at Arroyo Vista Family Health Center in Southern California.